Controne, Cilento, the Calore river, the Alburni mountains and… the famous Controne bean, a Presidio of Slow Food.
This small town is found by the visitor nestled in a lush green setting, in a spectacle of incomparable natural beauty surrounded on one side by woods and olive groves and on the other by a series of hills combed by vineyards and orchards. With the scent of the Mediterranean that comes over the countryside with sea breezes.
Controne is a land of oil and beans: in fact the country’s main activity is agriculture, which has always been practiced with traditional methods, still following old customs and obtaining high quality products.
The tradition of growing beans in Controne has been handed down for hundreds of years and the types planted by local farmers are still different today: lardariello, fauciariello, minichella and sorghum.
The Controne Bean is an excellence that has been promoted multiple times by the “Campagna Amica” Foundation, that holds many initiatives to discover products and local dishes from all over Italy. Its captain is Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, presdient of the Univerde Foundation, we were interviewed by him in his live show “Madre Terra”.
But the most famous is the one that has become part of the territory’s identity: Controne’s white bean. To see it, similar to a pearl, you can understand all its uniqueness: white without any spot or eye, with a round, slightly ovoid shape. A cream-white pod that can hold six to twelve seeds.
The cultivation still takes place following traditional peasant practices: the sowing in July and the harvest in November are carried out by hand, in small plots, by local farmers. It is a late bean compared to those harvested in the summer, but dried it can be stored and enjoyed throughout the year.
In this territory, immersed in a luxuriant nature there are the best conditions that “generate” this precious white gold of the earth. With the sources of water that come directly from the Alburni, with the consistency of the soil, with the sun that warms the earth and with the labour commitment of man, this genuine fruit of the earth has characteristics that make it so precious and unique.
The gastronomic excellence of this bean is known among both experts and the poor. It has a tendency to split during cooking and the cooking times significantly lower than those of a common bean are highly appreciated. For these characteristics and the link with its territory, the Controne white bean has been selected among the over 200 Slow Food Presidia in Italy, to be conserved and continue to be protected.
The town has dedicated a festival to it and every year, on the last Saturday and Sunday of November, everyone gathers for the traditional Controne Bean Festival, where you can also taste the traditional dishes of the area.
Sagra del Fagiolo di Controne was founded in 1983 precisely to enhance and make known an excellent product that until then was not known outside the Contronese territory. From the first festival to the present day, the festival has occupied a very important place in the life of the Contronesi up to dictating the “development” of the economy of the town itself, attracting thousands of tourists.
The event is also a historical re-enactment of the important characters of the period, such as the Abbot and the Baron, and a great variety of traditions and specialties of Controne that can be enjoyed in the “taverns” set up in the centre.
You can taste the beans in the tochetto, or a fresella, the typical dry bread that can be used after days, with seasoning of extra virgin olive oil and boiled beans.
Another way is to prepare it with endives or in the traditional pasta and beans, which is made here with lagane, a fresh homemade pasta.
All preparations are flavoured with extra virgin olive oil obtained from indigenous cultivars such as Rotondella and Carpellese, varieties that take on a particular aroma here.